VoIP and Landline Telephony

Some may have noticed, some not, but the landline telephony is actually being shut down in the next few years, if it has not happened already. This is done in Germany and in Switzerland and I assume other countries will follow or even do it earlier. In some countries and in some age groups the landline telephone does not exist any more. Younger people have only the cell phone and use flat rates for mobile telephony or VoIP services on the cell phone to call. And actually asynchronous communication mechanisms like email and messaging are more popular now than actually talking on the phone. So the technology that is relevant for phone companies now is internet and mobile telephony. So it is a logical step to stop supporting what has become an expensive niche technology. It looked like phone companies wanted customers to actually move their infrastructure to VoIP. That means the black phone with the dialing wheel from the 1950s would no longer work and customers would have to buy new devices, which would eventually allow them to make calls like before, just using keys instead of the dialing wheel. Or it would even be necessary to buy a computer or a tablet or a smart phone to do telephony at all. It seems that this approach was too ambitious, because there is a large group of customers who are unwilling or unable to move in this direction or simply unwilling to invest a lot of time on changing their habit and learning how to use the VoIP and a lot of money on buying devices that they actually do not want.

So the challenge is now to provided adapters that support all historical phone technology and map that to VoIP without forcing the customer to get used to a new device or a new method of using it. There are some impacts that can probably not be avoided. The adapter needs electricity, while the phone got its own electricity from the landline and even worked when there was an outage of electricity. The adapter can be small, but it will need some space. And there will be patterns of how making a call can fail that did not exist before. More components are involved and all of them can fail. As fall back for emergency calls even when electricity has failed we will have to rely on cell phones. Hopefully their batteries are charged, but people get used to that. And really almost everyone has a cell phone, even in poorer countries. Or at least a neighbor with a cell phone.

If this approach succeeds that will be quite impressive. But probably it is the only reasonable way to do that. And supporting only one technology, which is internet, is cost efficient. So the question who should pay for the adapters has to be answered in each country where this transition is being made.

Btw., I think that television is also a technology that will disappear. While in the old days half a dozen TV stations where on the air and in some countries financed by fees or by advertising or by taxes, we got alternative access via cable, satellite dishes and now the internet. So the local fee-financed TV stations are getting less relevant, because we can watch content from all over the world. So instead of imposing the fees on everybody who dares to live in the country (like in Germany or Switzerland) it is time to either abolish the TV-fees or to cut them way down or to constrain them to those who actually register as users of the national TV stations. So the national TV stations could make their content available in the internet only to those who pay and generate revenue like that. And of course compete with others all over the world who can do the same, if they just manage to provide content in a language that is comfortably understood. As long as the internet is open and we can view content from other countries without censorship this is a great progress against the national TV, even if that disappears due to the lack of funding and the lack of efficiency.

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